Extremely Disappointed: Tout de Suite

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Why is it that we place outsized expectations on things that only feel like they portend something amazing – but forgo the things we know will be amazing? You know, bundled up in hope, we impetuously run off to faraway cities, skipping seeing our beloved, warm and supportive friends there, for the remote promise of something else? Are we addicted to the almost inevitable disappointment?

As a near and dear darling said, the disappointment of whatever we tried to do is only the first layer of disappointment – the even bigger layer comes later – the disappointment in ourselves because we “Should Have Known Better By Now”. Oh, she is so, so right (right down to the all-important capitalization). We DO know better, but as she goes on to ponder: what is life, though, without hope? And I say, “Yes, you never know.” That’s why we keep beating our heads against a wall, repeating likely failures (insanity): we never know. We know better, but we never know at the same time. A fleeting chance exists that hope will lead us to something transcendent or real, even if ephemeral.

We do it, against better judgment, because we need to feel alive. As she said, to shake things up, to shake herself up. Maybe just going on a vacation would accomplish this, but sometimes we need a deeper shake. What, more than disappointment, makes us feel more alive (even if it briefly makes us wallow in wishing we weren’t)? We are almost certain before we even embark on these ‘adventures’ that they will yield visceral, howling disappointment accompanied by a self-walloping chastisement. But the hope! It might not disappoint at all. It might turn us around, lift us up, restore our faith!

Or not…

On Hope – Sándor Petőfi
Man, what is hope? …a horrifying whore
Who doles to everyone the same embrace.
You waste on her your most precious possession:
Your youth, and then she leaves without a trace!

Life is short: Prioritize the adventure

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I wrecked my car back in October (see image below; it does not show how bad it was – car was completely totaled). It was kind of a surreal experience – a learning experience. You know how you sort of know how things work in a country you have always lived in because you experienced it, knew others who had experienced it or saw it on TV (for example, you witnessed emergency vehicles come to the scene of an accident in reality or on a medical drama)? But when you move to a different country, the whole process may be different. Or it may be exactly the same with slight differences. When my car collided with a tractor (yes, a tractor – also visible in the background in the photo), it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. At no time did I feel fear. No idea why; even the paramedics at the scene and the medical personnel at the hospital kept saying, “You are so calm. How are you so calm?”.

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The car spun around completely so it was facing the complete opposite direction from the one I had been traveling in, and the back end of the car was in a ditch. I was able to climb out of the car easily, and the only instantly obvious injuries were loads of small cuts on my legs, which were bleeding, creating a puddle of blood in one of my shoes. Of course the fire department, ambulance and police all eventually showed up, and I was taken to a nearby hospital to be checked out. I had a lot of major bruises all over me from the seat belt, a lot of small cuts on my legs – most of these things are now healed except for some very deep bruising on my inner calves, one of which is still discolored, more than three months later. In this process I found that the whole thing plays out about like it would in the US or on TV shows… but some small things, of course, were somewhat different, such as the car insurance stuff being resolved in about three days, being charged about 40USD for the whole debacle (can only imagine what it would cost in the US) and the police phoning me a week after the accident just to check that I was okay. (I guess it would also be appropriate to say, even though mortality never crossed my mind throughout the entire car-crash incident and aftermath, that these small ‘events’, too, should influence the prioritization of adventure. You don’t really know what’s coming for you – I had just returned from a trip and had no food in the house, dashed to the store, ten minutes from home, and crashed only about five minutes away from my house, a true statistic. It could have been much worse, even fatal, and would any of the stupid rationalizations I routinely come up with to stop myself from doing things I really want to do matter any more? No.)

Where I live, it is not really possible to be without a car, but I worked with the lack of transportation for a while. I was in a bit of shock after the crash and had convinced myself that I immediately wanted to move to a city and started planning to move to Berlin. This meant I did not want to spend money buying a new car. I did not want to drive at all. I eventually realized I needed to buy something at least temporarily, but then I could never quite make myself purchase any of the crap I looked at. In the end, my enthusiasm for Berlin died away, and I bought something else and am still weighing the options on moving to a city (or not). So many things have happened just in the time since I went to Berlin to look at flats that I’ve had trouble making a decision – despite my own dislike for indecision. Oddly, other people’s indecision seems to influence my own ability to make decisions, and this is kind of troubling.

Sometime in the limbo of not having a car, casually looking at car websites, I happened to see an old Honda del Sol for sale in southern Sweden – something that I thought would pique my brother’s interest. It is a car he knows how to take apart and rebuild. He knows everything about it and loves it, having owned two himself since the early 1990s. I did not really think by sending him the link to the car that he would insist that he wanted to buy it, but that is exactly what happened. At the time, when he decided to come to Sweden to see the car, I felt a bit put out because it was really inconvenient and really bad timing. I did not even have my own car but was going to try to help him buy a hobby car? I had to take an expensive taxi ride to the train station, take a six-hour train ride to Malmö and meet him down there and then go look at this car that he might not even want once he saw it. (And then of course he did not have the money in hand when he did want it, so I had to pay for it upfront and that did not go entirely smoothly either, even though it worked out within a day.) In terms of time, timing, finance and transport the entire thing was crazy for me. And why did he need to buy a car in Sweden (to keep at my house) anyway? But that is exactly what happened.

He flew to Copenhagen and then came to Malmö to meet with me, and we bought this car. (Never mind the ensuing inconvenience once he departed – I still had to drive the car home the six hours back to the woods; it was winter but the car has weird-sized tires, so I could not find anywhere that had winter tires in stock. I stayed several days in Gothenburg, halfway home, waiting out the wintry weather, as the forecast called for a warm break during which it would be a good time to complete the drive back.)

It all worked out… and upon reflection, it is a valuable, even treasured, memory and experience. I spent quality time with my brother, who is one of the closest people in the world to me, had a true adventure (and that is another thing I learned/experienced for the first time – I had never purchased a car privately, only through dealerships, so I found out how easy that – and getting a car added to insurance – is), and appreciated the moment, despite, or maybe even because of, its inconveniences. It was only a short week or so later that our uncle died; we knew when we were in Malmö together that the end was coming, and this impending loss made us feel all the more appreciative of our time together and all the adventures we have prioritized having. Our mom and her brother were as close as my brother and I are, so she has been suffering. And even if/when my brother and I face that same kind of loss of each other, we at least will have our memories of travel adventures together.

(Oh, and certainly it goes without saying: don’t prioritize having an adventure like crashing your car. It is not worth it. Haha. I did not end up buying a replacement car until mid-December, and then it was another road trip adventure (for me alone) – car was in Stockholm (really far away).)

Random Gum: Raising the Bar 2017

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Getting late & losing track of time – December 2016/early 2017

For no real reason except that I’ve been abnormally into music for a few months (yes, I always am, but even more than usual these days), I have already collected a new mix that makes up the soundtrack of my life for the last three months or so (since my last mix went out). The songs are all listed below; almost the entire playlist (minus the songs not available at all on Spotify, such as track 01, from Vorderhaus) can be found among my Spotify playlists. Those people whose addresses I have can trust that a physical copy is on its way to you as I write.

01. Vorderhaus – “Faintly …future’s looming in the afterglow…
02. Big Search – “Love in Return …river, the warmth has gone/the trail’s not been cold for long…
03. The Passions – “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” …playing the part of a real troublemaker/but I didn’t care – it really moved me…
When you fall out of love with the dream

04. Steve Mason – “Planet Sizes” …the universe makes me cry…
It could have been a ‘date’ in Oslo… or not. The fates only know

05. Wand – “Fire on the Mountain (I-II-III)”

06. The Fat Tulips – “Where’s Clare Grogan Now?”
Courtesy of lovely William; reminders/mentions of Enumclaw & Scotland all in one

07. The Fall – “Lost in Music”
For Naomi, for S. Put the original on a recent Halloween mix after hearing it on the dreadful show Looking. Made fun of it (i.e. “Get a job, dancing, music-obsessed losers”). What can take it all up a notch? A version from The Fall, of course!

08. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me” …You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony…
What started as a casual recommendation led eventually to a little heartbreak every time this song came on: “We spend our days locked in a room content inside a bubble
And in the night time we go out and scour the streets for trouble”

09. British India – “I Thought We Knew Each Other”
“Fifteen years of fighting in the dark/Empty hands the only thing I’ve got/All the times I’ve tried to walk away” – it’s the words, not the generic sound

10. Cats on Fire – “Poor Students Dream of Marx …Hated London nightlife, so I’ve heard…
“Go on, get out/I am sharing your doubts”; “last words are for fools who haven’t said enough” (Oh, and it may interest some to know, like Naomi, that these dudes are FUNNISH)

11. The Crayon Fields – “Mirror Ball” …You are still my-y mirror ball/I look at you/and suddenly I’m a virgin/In a dance hall…
“Would it flatter you to know/That mostly it’s you/That makes me so slow”

12. Courtney Marie Andrews – “How Quickly Your Heart Mends”
“The jukebox is playing a sad country song,/For all the ugly Americans,/Now I feel like one of them,/Dancing alone and broken by the freedom”

13. Maud Lübeck – “J’oublie”
With thanks to Laurent S. When music is a conduit to escape dark times

14. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
Had been meaning to listen but didn’t until it got the “Travis seal of approval”. Love to Billy & Travis xox. And my god, is there anywhere that Donald Glover isn’t right now?

15. Junip – “Line of Fire” …No one else around you/No one to understand you/No one to hear your calls/Look through all your dark corners…
Gothenburg

16. The Church – “Under the Milky Way” …I think about the loveless fascination/
Under the Milky Way tonight…
I often forget how much I love the sound of The Church

17. Roosevelt – “Montreal”
Skåne del Sol adventures (no beheadings) w/ Kyle & musical influence of Mr Bridge

18. Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round” …I’ve got to have my way now, baby…
RIP Pete. If the losses of 2016 haven’t spun us all around, I don’t know what will

19. Margaret Glaspy – “You and I” …I think you might be harboring a heartache/I think you might be crying when I’m gone/You and I have been a mistake/I let it linger too long…
Endings that drag on; “I don’t want to see you cry/But it feels like a matter of time”

20. Foxygen – “Follow the Leader” …I know sometimes everyone wants to be someone else…

21. John Lennon – “Watching the Wheels” …when I say that I’m okay/well, they look at me kinda strange/surely you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game…

22. Lianne La Havas – “What You Don’t Do”
Thanks to Esteban and Ana

23. Kula Shaker – “Persephone”
Naming conventions, unconventions & the depth & meaning of a name. Not a Kula Shaker fan

24. Lia Ices – “After is Always Before” …I don’t know after and before’s almost gone…
Missing Jane

25. Grandaddy – “Clear Your History”

26. TV21 – “All Join Hands” …I feel so used or was I just your servant?…
Many thanks to William; thoughts racing while racing through Oslo outskirts

27. Leonard Cohen – “So Long, Marianne”
RIP Leonard Cohen. Generic Cohen to choose but has its reasons. Staple soundtrack of the Indian (why?!) place by my old office in Iceland where I spent so many lunches with old friends. And of course, the Norwegian namesake, Marianne, who preceded Cohen in death by only a few months

28. Diego Garcia – “You Were Never There” …Girl you never cared/You were never there…
“You hide yourself/behind a wall/and it shows”. Such truth

29. Cate le Bon – “Love is Not Love” …And the bars go/And it keeps me high/But I don’t know how to love you…
“I won’t let you, I won’t let you, sing my name again, love…”

30. Laura Marling – “Hope in the Air”
With manifold thanks to MP

31. Tomten – “Nothin’ Like Bein’ No One
Love for the little-known Seattle band. I will include them whenever I can
32. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle…you better pack up & run…
RIP Sharon. “Every dog has his day, uncle, and it just can’t go on this way…”
33. The Boo Radleys – “Wish I Was Skinny”
Love to Naomi – only Boo Radleys fan I know/can think of!

34. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
“If I could, I’d be your little spoon/And kiss your fingers forevermore/But, big spoon, you have so much to do/And I have nothing ahead of me”

35. U.S. Girls – “Island Song”

36. George Michael – “Freedom! ’90”
Holy shit – could 2016 be more brutal? RIP George. I was not a huge fan but what a piece of the 80s landscape and the collective memory of my generation

37. Os Mutantes – “Baby”
For R, always the wrong things to say at wrong times; on occasion knows the right things to do

38. Shonen Knife – “Elephant Pao Pao” とても悪いこと
Totemo warui koto/Japanese-language camp and those old days and ways

39. Low – “Just Like Christmas” …by the time we got to Oslo, the snow was gone/and we got lost, the beds were small, but we felt so young
Conjuring an unfathomably lovely future or a cocoon-like bubble? (Nevertheless, can’t go to Oslo without getting lost and finding an endless array of hi-fi stores)

40. The Verve – “History”
Poetry and history, with gratitude on many fronts to M

41. Nirvana – “Pennyroyal Tea” …Give me Leonard Cohen afterworld…
RIP Leonard Cohen – again

42. Martha Wainwright – “Take the Reins …if you take the reins, I will never look back…
43. Cowboy Junkies – “To Lay Me Down” …To lie with you/Once more to lie with you/With our dreams close together/To wake beside you…
Revival from illness in the cocoon of an illusory under-the-covers world “with our bodies entwined together”

44. Bess Atwell – “Cobbled Streets” …Should it be this hard?/Should it feel like disconnecting?…
“Well I’m afraid I’ve led you to believe I’m not what I am”

45. Steve Mason – “Run Away” …I know you’ll run away/But when I find this I don’t mind anyway…
“Will the love I think, I think I felt/Run away in a day or two?” O, to be pierced through the heart

46. Tori Amos – “Toast” …With a toast he’s telling me it’s time/To let you go…
Losing a brother, stories of toast. For Mom, RIP Paul, ML toastmonster and MP

The end of 2016 particularly was fraught with pain and fear. I can only do what I can: continue on my own path, offer sanctuary to those who have reasons to be fearful of what their current country may become, offer love and sympathy to my remaining family members (whose numbers are dwindling) and love unconditionally. The end also offered a glimpse of light and understanding, which remains unclear. The pain, uncertainty and momentum of all of it inexplicably motivates me as we stumble into 2017.

Photo by the incomparable late, great Paul Costanich.